I think it's different for every buyer and they go through their process before they are ready to use a realtor. You can do so much looking online now that many folks just don't think they need an agent. I view my job when working with a buyer to be a guide to them finding the right home for their family. An agent brings market knowledge (is the price in line?) and negotiating skills. Often you need someone to help both parties find the middle ground that helps both attain their objective. In most cases the buyers agent is paid by the seller at closing so our services are really free to the buyer. Why wouldn't you want someone to help you cover all the bases and reduce the stress of one of your biggest decsions?